A strong line of thunderstorms is moving across the Charlotte region on Wednesday, with meteorologists warning of wind gusts of more than 40 miles per hour and possible pea-sized hail.
Meteorologists issued a special weather statement just before 8:40 a.m. after radar showed a line of storms along the Interstate 77 corridor in the western portions of the county. The line of storms stretched from the towns of Dallas and McAdenville in Gaston County to four miles north of Carowinds in Mecklenburg County, according to the weather service.
The weather service said the storm was moving to the northeast at 60 mph and warned that any thunderstorms along this line could quickly become capable of producing a brief tornado.
Flooding also is possible in areas, and standing water has already been reported on parts of some area interstates in roadways. For example, in Iredell County, a right lane and exit ramp for westbound Interstate 40 at mile marker 151 near Statesville is closed because of flooding in the area. An alert from the N.C. Department of Transportation says the closures could last through lunchtime.
At 9:10 a.m., the website for Charlotte Douglas listed about 20 flights that had been delayed or cancelled on Wednesday. But the overwhelming majority of arrivals and departures were still on schedule, according to the website.
Charlotte Fire Capt. Rob Brisley encouraged anyone who may be out driving on Wednesday to stay alert because of the possible uncertainty in the weather.
Anytime youre driving and theres a concern about weather like today or significant rain always have a Plan B to get to your destination, Brisley said. That may be allowing for more time if theres standing water or if the road is flooding turn around.
On Tuesday, the Storm Prediction Center included Charlotte in the risk area for severe storms Wednesday as a powerful storm system that caused blizzard conditions in the Midwest began heading toward the East Coast.
Still even after the thunderstorm threat ends, forecasters say gusty winds could cause additional problems later Wednesday and early Thursday. Mecklenburg is one of about two dozen counties that are under a wind advisory until 6 p.m. Wednesday. Other area counties included under the advisory are Alexander, Cabarrus, Catawba, Cleveland, Gaston, Iredell, Lincoln and York counties.
The Carolinas are on the warmer side of the powerful storm, which is expected to cause a wide variety of inclement weather. Blizzard warnings are posted for Wednesday across parts of Ohio and Indiana, and an ice storm warning has been posted for parts of eastern West Virginia.
Heavy snow, soaking rains and severe storms were reported across a wide swath of the central United States on Christmas Day.
What to expect around here
Sometime after daybreak Wednesday, forecasters say, a surge of milder air is expected to push into the area along and east of Interstate 85. That will set the stage for possible severe weather, as a cold front plows across the region late Wednesday morning.
The greatest severe threat will be along and southeast of Interstate 85 during the morning to midday hours, said Harry Gerapetritis of the National Weather Service office in Greer, S.C.
The severe weather threat is expected to grow even higher as the storms push farther east, into the Raleigh-Fayetteville-Florence corridor.
The Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., included a portion of southeast North Carolina and northeast South Carolina in a moderate risk of severe weather Wednesday. That is unusual for this time of year. But there were more than 40 reports of tornadoes and thunderstorm-related wind damage on Christmas Day in Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi.
Once the thunderstorm threat has moved east, meteorologists say, strong winds around the circulation of the low pressure system in the Great Lakes will bring gusty conditions to the western Carolinas. Gerapetritis says the winds could knock down trees whose roots are weakened by the rain.
More peaceful conditions with temperatures near or slightly below averages are predicted for Thursday and Friday.